Amateur Development
Attempting to Salvage Master of Orion III


I found the original Master of Orion to be stronger and more lasting game than the original Civilization. I actually played MOO more than I did Civ, and I had practically devoted an entire year of my leisure activity solely to Civ. So you can imagine how much I played MOO.
Yet while the Civ franchise grew and evolved, getting better with each incarnation, the Orion franchise faltered and dropped into the abyss. Civ remained true to its original gameplay, improving on things that had problems, upgrading existing systems and concepts. Master of Orion 2 focused its gameplay in a direction wholly different than the original, adding layer upon layer of new complexity. I hated it.
Master of Orion 3 promised to return to key concepts from the original. I so longed for that to be true, I was willing to grant the developers of MOO3 the benefit of the doubt and then some. Yet in reality, MOO3 turned out to be one of the most colossal stinkers of all time, a truly embarassing effort. They made it into nothing but a complexity contest, and this even after cutting most of its features! The thing was less fun than playing with a spreadsheet.
MOO3 developer Quicksilver bragged about the strength of their AI. Never was a promise more empty. The AI was completely inept! It could not launch any kind of effective offensive. All it could do was to play defense with some competence. Problem is, all this manages to do is to drag out the inevitable. Instead of a fun challenge, all it offers is one long boring and inevitable slog to victory.
The game had some up sides, and chief among these was its modability. I looked around the community at existing modding efforts before launching my own, and I found one guy who seemed to be on to something. When I tried his mod, the game actually played slightly better. Although we never worked together formally, I took the initiative to test his mods and give him feedback, recommendations. He would put out a new build, I'd playtest it, report my findings, and he'd make adjustments and put out another build.
I also tried some of my own tweaks eventually. Together, the efforts of myself and this one modder (sorry, I can't remember his name, since I had only limited contact with him) brought the game to a semi-playable state. We managed to get the AI to be able to pose a limited threat, which made the game at least somewhat interesting, though it still had tons of problems.
The guy's best mod became a sort of unofficial patch for a large segment of the community, and Quicksilver adapted almost all of his changes to their patching efforts. Unfortunately, all in all, it was like sticking your thumb in the dike when the dam is about to burst.
When it became clear that the publisher was cutting its losses and there would not be significant patching, that the game would be left broken (it was probably hopeless anyway), I abandoned MOO3 and moved on to Galactic Civilizations to satisfy my space empire gaming urge.
I learned valuable lessons from my MOO3 modding experience. Chief among these was an appreciation for how too many complications will ruin a game. This is a tough lesson to grasp, but having learned it inside and out, this was one of the last pieces of the puzzle I needed to become a professional game developer.
KISS applies to any business venture. Keep It Simple and Straightforward. Making games is no exception. Master of Orion III stands as a living ruin, a testament to those who eschewed this wisdom and the troubles that came upon them.

- Sirian

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